UCF’s Center for Community Schools will receive a $3.9 million boost in funding following recent approval from the Florida Legislature, resulting in a total of $11 million for the 2023-24 fiscal year to help support the center’s Community Partnership Schools initiative.

Co-founded in 2010 at Evans High School by the Children’s Home Society of Florida, Orange County Public Schools and UCF, the Community Partnership Schools model is an innovative approach that enables schools to offer various resources for students and families in underserved communities.

Each school unites at least four core partners — a school district, university or college, community-based nonprofit and healthcare provider — that leverage their collaboration and community resources to provide students with access to healthcare, social services and more. Within the schools, four staff members each oversee a pillar of the model: a partnership director, an expanded learning coordinator, a wellness coordinator, and a coordinator for family and community engagement.

Four years after the flagship program at Evans High School launched, the intiative received $685,000 in funding to establish the UCF Center for Community Schools and began adding new sites across the state. One of them, Orange County Public Schools’ Academic Center for Excellence, is located just across the street from UCF Downtown and 15 minutes from Evans High.

“OCPS ACE is one of our most comprehensive Community Partnership Schools, with Rosen Preschool and the Boys and Girls Club embedded directly on the school grounds,” says Amy Ellis, director of the UCF Center for Community Schools. “This unique educational campus provides students with access to before- and after-school tutoring, counseling and a full range of healthcare services.”

Ellis says the increased funding will help support and add to existing programs and services in the areas of expanded learning, wellness, and family and community engagement. It also gives the center the opportunity to award up to eight new schools with grant dollars to begin planning implementation of the model.

“An increase in funding for Community Partnership Schools signals a greater understanding of the value of school partnerships and the aim in Florida to genuinely care for and invest in the whole child,” Ellis says. “Legislators in Florida are some of our strongest partners, and we are privileged to be working alongside them to elevate our students, families and communities.  This funding will provide close to 44,000 students with access to needed enrichment and tutoring programs; physical, dental, and behavioral health services; and family assistance.”

The recent increase marks the first since the 2019-20 academic year, which saw a leap from $1.4 million to $7.1 million, allowing additional districts across the state to launch new sites. Today, over 80 core partners have made 36 sites across 21 districts — and counting — possible.

Proposals for up to eight additional sites will be selected by an external review team, with priority given to schools in new districts and along with those connected to existing community schools.

“Students can be successful with the right efforts in place,” Ellis says. “It takes a village to raise our Florida children, and the core Community Partnership Schools partners have committed long-term — for 25 years — to support that village.”